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Health authority aims to balance its books
Authority reduces its deficit by more than $117,000

James Rubec
Northern News Services
Published Friday, September 30, 2011

Missed appointments are up, the deficit is down and no one at The Yellowknife Health and Social Services Authority (YHSSA) knows exactly how obese or diabetic the city's population is.

The health authority held its annual general meeting at the Tree of Peace Friendship Centre on Monday Sept. 26.

There CEO Les Harrison touted improved financial numbers - reducing the authority's accumulated deficit by more than $117,000 - but didn't deny that the organization had faced serious challenges.

At last year's AGM, Harrison said YHSSA had an accumulated deficit of $367,000. This year, it's $249,256.

"Our biggest challenge was undertaking some pretty significant projects and going through a lot change. We were proud to open the Yellowknife Primary Care Centre, and focused last year on helping people get used to that change," said Harrison.

One of this year's changes was the ending of the popular midwifery program, which Harrison said wasn't sustainable. However, he said YHSSA will be reviewing the program in the future.

The focus of this year's AGM was on diabetes.

In a presentation to about 40 people in the Tree of Peace Boardroom, Leanne Towgood, the YHSSA's director of population health, outlined the group's plan.

"We're ahead of the pack with our electronic medical records system, but we still don't have great data on diabetes or obesity rates," Towgood said. She added that, unlike diseases such as tuberculosis or hepatitis, diabetes isn't required to be reported. For those who have a diagnosis, the YHSSA has begun running a diabetes education program.

"Right now we have a program that runs three days a week at the YPCC, clients can be refereed by their physician or a nurse practitioner."

One resident was concerned about a gap in care, and shared her story with the board and residents about struggling to get care for her husband's diabetes.

"I've been worried since the diabetes clinic at Stanton closed," said Lyda Fuller, a Yellowknife resident, and the executive director of the YWCA.

"My husband is an insulin-dependant diabetic. He's six feet tall, weighs 140 pounds, and has Parkinson's disease. He twitches a lot, which I think uses up calories. This makes him lose weight. When we used to have an issue we'd drop in and see the dietitian. Now we're managing it on our own, and my husband is withering away."

Fuller said she only found out about the new programs at the YPCC last month.

"It's good to know there is a service, but it could take a month before we see a doctor, then another month until we get a referral."

Harrison admits that in the past that there was a service gap in diabetes education, but said the new care model is going to help a lot of people. The YHSSA is also concerned about how few people show up to their appointments. The no-show rate sits at 10.5 per cent.

"We've got to do a better job marketing our services, and educating people on how to use them."

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